Math Whizzes Compete in UH High School Contest

In a veritable mathematics spelling bee, hundreds of Houston's most math-savvy teens will showcase their talent in physics, calculus and other subjects during the annual University of Houston Mathematics Contest Saturday, Feb. 13. 

Some 450 students from more than 30 Southeast Texas high schools have signed up for the math tournament, where the region's young math whizzes will square off for bragging rights and trophies. 

"Kids who enjoy math should have the opportunity to compete against each other, just like kids in any other field," said Jeff Morgan, professor and chair of UH's department of mathematics, which is sponsoring the event.  "We ran a similar contest when I was a faculty member at Texas A&M University and started this one at UH in 2005.  The tournament is more than just good community outreach, it's a way to showcase the university to hundreds of top-achieving students." 

Morgan is passionate about math outreach and takes the UH math department's responsibility of being a resource to the community seriously.  He and the participating teachers from local and area high schools go above and beyond to help high school students develop and sharpen their passion for math.  At a time when U.S. students are falling behind in global competitiveness in math, this event challenges the prevailing wisdom that today's high school students don't care about the subject. 

Students compete in up to eight categories, including geometry, statistics, physics and a calculator test.  In addition to individual winners, the school with the most points also will be recognized.  There are winners in several categories, and the overall sweepstakes winner has been Clements High School from Fort Bend Independent School District for five years in a row. 

In addition to the individual exams, there is a team project in which groups of students are given long and complex math problems to solve the week before the competition. Then there is a lightening round capping off the tournament - the Quick-Click Smack Down - where students are given just seconds to click in their answers to a series of math problems.  Competitors are gradually eliminated until the one with the fastest mind and fingers is left standing. 

There is no fee, and registration begins at 8 a.m., Feb. 13 at the Science and Engineering Classroom building.  For more information, visit